What’s more dangerous to the human soul—money or theology?
Money is the easy answer. Paul warns us, “The love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs” (1 Timothy 6:10). Treasure money, and what it can buy, more than God, and it will rob you of him and buy you terrifying, unending pain, apart from him.
Jesus himself says, “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money” (Matthew 6:24). The God of Christianity and the god of money are irreconcilably opposed. They cannot room together in the human heart. If you find yourself serving money—consuming yourself with earning, gathering and spending—by definition you are not serving God.
But is money more spiritually dangerous than theology? The answer may be trickier than we think, especially within the numbing comfort of a proudly affluent and educated American Church. Money is a tangible, countable, often visible god. Theology, on the other hand—if it is cut off from truly knowing and enjoying God himself—can be a soothing, subtle, superficially spiritual god. Both are deadly, but one lulls us into a proud, intellectual, and purely cosmetic confidence and rest before God. Theology will kill you if it does not kindle a deep and abiding love for the God of the Bible and if it does not inspire a desire for his glory, and not ultimately our own.
Good Theology Is the Only Path to God
Now, I love theology, and you should, too. Paul’s one aim in life and ministry was to know Christ and him crucified (i.e., to know Christian theology), and he wanted to know God in Christ as truly and thoroughly as possible, with all of its implications for everything he thinks and says and does (1 Corinthians 2:2). You cannot read this man’s letters and not come to the conclusion that theology was his heartbeat. He lived to know as much about this unsearchable God as possible, and he was ready to die for those truths.
Psalm 119 is a passionate love letter written to the revelation of God in his word. What we know about God from the Bible is unbelievably, inexhaustibly profitable for teaching, reproof, correction, training in righteousness and life (2 Timothy 3:16).
Without theology, you will not know God—literally and spiritually. So, this article is not meant to be a prohibition against theology—God forbid—but a caution and a warning about theology. Knowledge about God can replace an authentic knowing of him to our destruction, especially for the theologically refined and convinced. We all should want our theology to be not only true, but Spirit-filled and fruitful.